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The Human Side

This software closes the circle between two people who have dedicated their time to the service of the world community. The first paid job held by the well-known Linux developer and free software activist Matthew Garrett [18] was the work he performed under MacKay on the development of Dasher. The two met at the University of Cambridge where MacKay was a faculty member and Garrett a sys admin in a computational physics research group.

Garrett wrote an obituary for MacKay that appeared on his blog [19]. In it he indicated that the work he did with MacKay had opened his eyes to the meaning that free software could have for the user and how important MacKay's contributions were. As a result of the joint effort expended by these two men, Dasher went from being a research project to a well-integrated component of the Gnome desktop environment in the space of a year.

During this time, Garrett did not work away in solitary. Instead he gave lectures about Dasher. However, he devoted much more time to meeting with users of the software, listening to them, and then trying to implement the experience into the software. This experience was instrumental in Garret's transformation into a kernel hacker, Linux developer, and free software activist who, when there is any doubt, will loudly defend the user against a company. He does not shy away from regularly denouncing Microsoft, Intel, and Canonical when they interfere with free software.

With his blog entry, Garrett has also forged a bridge of knowledge for many readers since so many people who knew MacKay were not familiar with Dasher. Likewise, many people who were familiar with Dasher did not know about MacKay. In particular, they did not know of his awards and his widely held reputation among fellow academics for being a thoroughly great guy, nor had they been aware that Garrett had worked so closely with him.

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